Kevin Nolan injected Bolton’s bid for Europe with serious momentum after scoring the winner against Fulham at the Reebok Stadium.
Gary Speed put Wanderers ahead midway through the first half from the penalty spot after Michael Brown had daftly dived in from behind on Nicolas Anelka. Nolan was on hand to double Bolton’s lead from close range range after Stelios Giannakopoulos had hit the post with a header. But Sam Allardyce’s side didn’t make it easy for themselves – Zat Knight gave Fulham hope with a thumping header and it needed a fine save from Juusi Jaaskelainen to prevent Tomasz Radzinski from pinching a point.
After a scrappy start, Fulham appeared to getting to grips with things when Brown’s inexplicable decision to challenge Anelka from behind conceded a penalty that Speed slotted home. The goal galvanised Bolton and knocked the stuffing out of Fulham, who were lucky not go further behind when Aboudalaye Meite forced a great save out of Jan Lavstuka from debutante Adranik Teymourian’s fine cross. The hosts doubled their lead five minutes after the interval when Nolan poked home after Giannakapolous’ header came back off the woodwork from Nicky Hunt.
Heidar Helguson had a strike scrambled off the line before Chris Coleman’s side roused themselves and Knight headed home Simon Davies’ corner after good work from Radzinski and Alexei Smertin, who had both come off the bench. The visitors almost levelled in the last minute when Jaaskelainen pulled off a great save from Radzinski’s header.
BOLTON WANDERERS (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen, Hunt, Meite, Ben Haim, Gardner; Nolan, Speed (Thompson 68), Teymourian (Tal 81); Giannakopoulos, Anelka, Diouf (Pedersen 86). Subs (not used): Walker, Vaz Te.
GOALS: Speed (pen 23), Nolan (51).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Lastuvka; Rosenior, Queudrue, Knight, Christanval; Volz (Radzinski 63), Brown (Smertin 62), Diop, S. Davies; McBride, Helguson (Montella 67). Subs (not used): Warner, Routledge.
BOOKED: Brown, Helguson, S. Davies, Queudrue.
GOAL: Knight (66).
REFEREE: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).